Standing tall on an enviable history of innovation and culture, the Polish capital city of Warsaw has a passion for everything new. Here you will find the perfect combination of old-Europe charm and cosmopolitan cool that easily rivals the heavy-weight tourist capitals of Europe. Amongst the glittering five-star hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants, luxury is never far away. But don't mistake Warsaw for just another luxury destination, as it is also the thriving music and arts capital of Poland, with an exciting selection of festivals, art exhibitions and good old-fashioned parties.
The avant-garde skyscrapers of Warsaw city centre are home to a glittering selection of five-star hotels. InterContinental Warszawa (Emilii Plater 49), with its 44th-floor spa and glass walls, has one of the best views in town, although its crown is hotly contested by business-centric Warsaw Marriott (Aleje Jerozolimskie 65-79). Nearby Polonia Palace Hotel (Aleje Jerozolimskie 45) offers mid-range luxe that manages to stay just the right side of kitsch, while the H15 Boutique Apartments (Poznańska 15) combine a historic exterior with brilliantly zany pop art-style décor. Centrally located Ibis Warszawa Stare Miasto (Muranowska 2) offers good, basic accommodation for budget travellers.
Warsaw is home to more than 20 shopping malls, ranging from the supersized Arkadia (Aleja Jana Pawła II 82) down to smaller and more exclusive Klif (Okopowa 58-72). The city has yet to achieve fashion capital status, but glitzy dom handlowy VITKAC (Bracka 9) stocks a large range of designer brands and W. Kruk (Aleje Jerozolimskie 11/19) specialises in stunning jewellery crafted from local amber. Find more local produce at Bazar Różyckiego (Ulica Targowa 54), Warsaw’s oldest bazaar, or browse a range of intriguing antiques stalls at the Sunday market Bazar Na Kole (Ulica Obozowa 99). Bibliophiles can while away the hours at vintage bookstore Antykwariat Lamus (Sandomierska 23), a hidden gem in the heart of the city.
Once derided for its stodgy cuisine, Warsaw now has a blossoming creative food scene. If you like your dinner served with plenty of theatrics, book a table at the increasingly famous U Kucharzy (Ossolińskich 7). Housed in a studio theatre, the food is prepared by a small team of actors-cum-chefs while the ‘audience’ (that’s you, the diners) looks on. Despite organic origins, the dishes themselves are basic and universally affordable. For something a little more upmarket, you’ll need to head to the New Orangery of the Warsaw Royal Bath Gardens, which is the unusual setting for glamorous restaurant Belvedere (Agrykola 1). Gourmands craving French fare will find haute cuisine at Michel Moran’s Bistro de Paris (Pilsudski Square 9), right on the edge of the Old Town.
Ludwig van Beethoven Easter Festival
This grand annual celebration of Beethoven’s work features a series of concerts, operas and exhibitions across several venues. Most events sell out quickly, so it’s worth securing tickets in advance.
Orange Warsaw Festival
Billed as the biggest annual music event in Poland, this buzzing festival attracts an international crowd. Expect to see performances from artists such as Beyonce, The Offspring, Cyprus Hill and Fatboy Slim.
Nowa Tradycja Festival
This folk and world music festival has been going since 1998 and highlights the very best talent from around the globe. The emphasis, however, is on Polish regional and folk music, with a high-profile competition for up-and-coming young musicians as well as performances from local bands.
The Warsaw Midsummer Eve celebration is one of the biggest of its kind in Poland. Thousands congregate on the banks of the Vistula River to watch young women throwing their ceremonial wreaths into the water. Fireworks, concerts and live entertainment events follow the ritual.
Jazz in the Old Town
This two-month-long festival takes over Warsaw’s Old Town with a programme of diverse jazz acts. Past years have seen performances from jazz stars such as David Murray, Archie Sheep, Richard Galliano, Chico Freeman and Dino Saluzzi.